Networking & Wireless
Internet Access Advocates Release Action Plan Pushing for Gigabit Speeds at Schools
A new action plan from the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition provides recommendations for policymakers to design a broadband strategy that promotes education, health care and community enrichment.
For the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB), connecting the nation’s schools, libraries, health clinics and other community “anchor institutions” to high-speed broadband is a top priority. The coalition released an action plan yesterday in an effort to help solve issues surrounding high-speed broadband connectivity for these anchor institutions.
SHLB is an organization of broadband access advocates that work together to create and support policies to improve broadband connectivity for anchor institutions and their communities. SHLB's action plan, “Connecting Anchor Institutions: A Broadband Action Plan,” is organized into 10 policy papers that outline strategies to improve access, funding and infrastructure in order to reach gigabit Internet speeds. The plan is part of the coalition’s broader Grow2Gig+ initiative, a campaign to connect all of the nation’s anchor institutions to gigabit speeds by 2020.
“Anchor institutions are the lifeblood of our communities, and access to high-speed Internet at our nation’s anchor institutions is the first rung on the ladder to success,” said John Windhausen, executive director of SHLB, in a statement.
While each of the 10 papers touch on a particular subject, they share three common themes:
- Partnerships and collaboration can eliminate silos and reduce costs;
- Competitive options benefit anchor institutions because they have the opportunity to choose their own technologies and research more affordable options; and
- More funding is needed to help communities meet build-out and deployment costs and ongoing monthly fees.
The SHLB action plan was released at an event in Washington, D.C. at the Alliance for Excellent Education, where several of the papers’ authors and industry leaders gathered to discuss issues and recommendations. At the event, the attendees also addressed the current gap in available Internet acccess between rural and urban communities.
“Anchor institutions in rural areas face the same challenges in high-speed access as rural Americans, where 39 percent lack adequate access to broadband service, compared to only 4 percent in urban areas,” said Tom Koutsky, chief policy counsel at Connected Nation, in the paper “Rural Broadband Programs and Community Anchor Institutions.” Koutsky offers several suggestions, such as standardizing lease agreements and wireless tower setting policies, in the paper “Broadband Infrastructure Policy and Community Anchor Institutions.”
Angela Siefer, director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, also agreed that not having adequate Internet access makes daily life challenging. "Community anchors can provide digital literacy training, educate consumers about helpful programs, lead community digital inclusion planning efforts, and, in some cases, provide wireless broadband services directly to consumers,"she said in a statement. "But for these efforts to succeed, policymakers must support community anchors and their partners with locally customized resources to meet the needs of specific populations."
An overview of each of the 10 papers is available on the Executive Summary page, and further information about the Grow2Gig+ campaign and the full action plan is available on the SHLB site.